Jul 12 2015

The Starting Point for Every Vocal Question

I recently asked the VocalWisdom.com community to share with me the two biggest questions they have about their voice, and the response was great.

There were questions of all different kinds. There were general questions that most of us have had at some point. There were very specific questions that addressed a particular issue that individual is dealing with. Then there were other questions that asked about more secondary aspects of singing.

As you might imagine I am accustomed to receiving questions from readers. And I get a lot of different kinds. Naturally they usually address a specific issue they are dealing with.

For example how to fix a high note, or a feeling of tightness on a certain pitch or vowel. Often I am asked for an exercise that will solve the issue. Which seems like a logical request because we develop our vocal skills by doing exercises.

Often what I have to tell them is an exercise is not going to be of much help. Really, any specific answer I give will only be a little helpful. It unfortunately will not solve the issue completely.

The reason I say that is because the voice is not a singular sort of thing. What I mean is the issues we have usually appear to be singular in nature. A problem with a certain vowel, but the others are fine. Difficulty with the high voice but the middle and low seem OK.

Since our problem seems to be confined to one area we naturally assume the remedy just needs to address that singular thing. “Please just give me an exercise that will fix this problem.” But an exercise will be of little value if it is performed in the currently normal coordination.

This is why I often say that it doesn’t matter so much “what” we do as it does “how” we do it. The exercises we do only have value in the way we do them.

An exercise is only a framework for practicing a certain way of doing the vocal coordination. It doesn’t necessarily make us coordinate correctly. It just gives us a context to practice and repeat correct coordination.

So the real thing that is needed is not an exercise alone – the what. What is really needed is a better understanding of the concept of coordinating the voice – the how.

Of course a good exercise sets things up in such a way that the new coordination is encouraged. But if we are not consciously aware of what we are trying to accomplish through how we do the exercise the benefit will be minimal.

So this brings us to the question, “OK, then how do we do it?”

This is the real question that we need to address. And it is really the basis of our years of study and practice. Because there are several things that go into answering that question.

It is more than what just an exercise can answer.

I talk a lot about concepts. I feel that is the most effective and reliable way to develop an understanding about how the voice works.

We need to be able to conceptualize what the voice needs to do so we can influence the nervous system and the body to do it. Because that is basically how we are designed.

We picture things in our imagination and that picture guides our actions. It is an odd sort of conscious/unconscious way of behaving. We are consciously deciding about what we want to do but it is happening in an unconscious, reflexive sort of way.

We have a clear intention about how we want to do things and the body responds freely and spontaneously. The action happens directly with the thought. It is different than when we try to control our actions deliberately, where there is another layer of conscious interference.

This is the meaning of Lamperti’s statement, “Singing is like thinking out loud.” Which is the goal. We think what we want to sing and the body responds to make it a reality.

So first we need to understand what are the component parts of the body that make up the musical instrument. Then we need to understand how those component parts are meant to function most optimally.

I’ve discussed what these parts are many times. But a quick review might help.

The main things we need to understand are the breathing system, the phonation system and the resonance system. We need to be clear what parts of the body fulfill these roles and we need to understand how they do that.

Then we need to understand how each of these parts works together with the other parts. They cooperate and work together to give us the result we are after.

This is the main reason a single answer or exercise rarely is helpful. Because the operation of the voice is determined by more than just one thing. So we need to learn how to get all three parts to work together in a certain way.

Unfortunately, I am not able to explain all of this in a blog post. I actually have already discussed pretty much everything over the years in the various posts.

But the class I am working on is actually meant to cover all of the essential aspects of understanding the vocal instrument. This is the starting point for answering any question we have about the voice.

We really can’t expect to get the results we want if we don’t take care of all of the pieces. But to do that we need to learn what those pieces are. Then we need to learn how they work together.

When we learn how to coordinate all of the pieces together we then have the starting point to answer any vocal problem or question we might have.

So I am developing this online class to give you the opportunity to make sure you understand the fundamentals of the voice. So you are building your instrument on a solid foundation of accurate understanding.

The class will be on a Google Hangout and accessible to anyone with the access link. It will be recorded and if you register and are not able to attend live you will have access to the recording.

If you are interested make sure you keep connected to VocalWisdom.com. Suggestions are welcome in the comments. Thank you.

  1. M interested in the online class thanku .do u know the conversion time for sing aporw

  2. You’re always so right! Looking forward for the class!

  3. Sorry Rachel. I overlooked your question. No, the class didn’t happen. I’ll let you know when I have something planned. Thanks.

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